• Sean Keenan

A Study of Empathy: Undercover Boss


Previously, I discussed empathy maps and how they can help give a much clearer perspective on how the user is thinking and feeling. To expand upon that I’m doing a task to help show the strength. Using the show undercover boss, I’m going to watch through an upside and make two separate empathy maps, one for the boss and one for an employee of my choosing.


TGI Friday’s


After looking through a few different episodes, I choose this one about TGI Friday’s. My family has been in the restaurant business most of my life, so I thought it would be intriguing to see some of the inner machinations of a chain restaurant.


To start off we are introduced to both the brand of TGI Friday’s, as well as their current CEO Ray Blanchette. Recently returning to Friday’s after over a decade, Ray wants to try and drive business into the restaurant itself, as delivery is becoming more and more commonplace. To get a better understanding of how the restaurants themselves work and could be improved, Ray went undercover.

A look at Ray before and after the disguise


Empathizing with the employees


Early on, it was clear that Ray was very affected by the multitude of different stories the workers had. Every worker had a story, whether it was Brittney and her drug addiction or Michelle and her mother’s death. It helped show the humanity of many of these workers to both Ray and the audience.


The worker that appeared to affect Ray the most was a man named Abdul. A line cook in the Bensalem Friday’s location, he quickly impressed Ray with his energy and how well he was doing the job. After their shift, Ray and Abdul begin talking where Abdul tells the story of how he escaped from the streets. Ray is very moved and later comments that he feels Abdul has what it takes to be a manager.


To end the episode, all the employee’s were told the truth of the situation and given some personal bonus. For Abdul, he was given $25,000 as well as a promotion to GM. As he mentions, his path mirrors Ray’s in some ways and you could tell that Ray sees a bit of himself in Abdul.


Mapping it out


Ray's empathy map


After my viewing I then came up with empathy maps for both. For Ray, it helped focus what it seemed his goal was after this experience. For much of Ray’s journey, he was most affected by the stories of the employee’s. While he mentioned some issues with the actual chains, he found that the workers and their stories are what’s key to this business as a whole. It also helped prove his theory that Friday’s as a whole should focus on being a business for families, both for the customers and the employees.


Abdul's empathy map


For Abdul’s map, it shows the determination that he has after the unfortunate hand he was dealt. He’s a hard worker who knows what it takes to succeed, as well as what someone who won’t succeed in his situation looks like. He’s also a very humble individual. His motivation is driven heavily by family, with his mother, siblings, and daughter all keeping him going. Even after getting a promotion, the first thing he says is “I’m gonna keep my foot on the gas and keep going” showing that the hard work never stops. On the whole, he embodied what Ray felt a typical Friday’s worker should be, as well as reminded Ray of himself a bit


Full Empathy Map Discovery


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© 2020 by Sean Keenan.